Quick Picks from CMCL

January 27, 2014

Off the Shelf: Long reads reconsidered

Filed under: Books, Off the Shelf — Tags: , , , , — Mark @ 9:22 am

goldfinchOne need not look far or for long to see something that indicates our world is on a downward spiral to destruction. (If you don’t agree, try watching some reality TV or a 24-hour news network. That ought to do the trick.) When I found my number in the holds queue for the highly praised (but really, really long) novel, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt was somewhere in the 300s I had the opposite reaction. I thought, “Well, this is reassuring. Over 300 Washington County library users want to read a novel nearly 800 pages in length. There is good in the world.” And then I thought, “Are these people crazy?!? 771 pages in three weeks!” I deleted my hold request. There’s not going to be a renewal on this title, people.

So then I started to think of other huge novels I’ve read and loved. Novels that don’t have a holds queue. Maybe you won’t devour them at the same rate as Tartt’s 2013 success, but you won’t have to.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville I read this book a couple years ago for the first time and I hated every second of it. Seriously. I loathed it. Except when it was the most brilliant thing I’d ever read. Then months after I trudged through the final pages, I found it had affected me in ways I did not immediately realize. My thoughts wandered back to it. If you’ve never gone after this classic, do.

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry Even the television mini-series adaptation of this book is a commitment clocking in around 6 hours in length. I never made it through that version. The book though was impossible to quit. There was a blurb on the cover of the version I read that struck me. It said something like, “It could have gone on another 800 pages and I would have happily continued.” I felt the same way. Fortunately, McMurtry also felt the same way and wrote numerous sequels and prequels.

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell Again, this book should never have ended. I would have read about Scarlett O’Hara to her deathbed and then about her children and her children’s children. It’s probably for the best that I didn’t get my way. As the end of this book neared, I kept looking at the small grouping of pages remaining, wondering how in the world this tale was going to get wrapped up in those few pages. It’s been a while, but what I do remember is that it did wrap up and it broke my heart when it did. (If you’ve only seen the epic, highly-praised movie, in my opinion, it does no justice to the book.)

These are classics, nothing new here, but all three of these books had a huge impact on me. They were also, literally, huge. Not one for the airplane and not fun to carry in your purse, but they are out on paperback. (The Goldfinch won’t be till June.)

What giant book am I going to try to read this year while I wait for Tartt’s queue to dissipate? Les Miserable by Victor Hugo or maybe I’ll give Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace another try. Wish me luck. And good luck to you, especially if you have three weeks to power through that 800 page novel.


1 Comment

  1. I would also love to add Anna Karenina to the list – one of the most depressing conversations I overheard last year was between two women who had no idea that it was more than just a film with Kiera Knightley in it…!

    Comment by Eric D — January 29, 2014 @ 11:02 pm

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